Syriana Cafe

JEFFERSONIAN DINNER: DEBATING IDEAS BY RELATING TO EACH OTHER

Over the two years, I have grown into the habit of stopping by Syriana, mostly at dinner time, to “check on business”. I frequently ended up being asked to join our patrons on their tables over deep discussions. I have experienced the mutual joy of bouncing ideas off other minds, and the thirst for exploring others’ views. These discussions over dinner became the reason for my visits and the “check on business” thing became a distraction.

These captivating discussions brought to my mind the lost art of the cultural salon but in a unique spin, the Jeffersonian Dinner. If you have not come across this concept before, picture a dinner in Thomas Jefferson home of Monticello. Intellectuals of various backgrounds would gather around the dinner table and engage in deep discussions. With focused conversations, and cultured, gently moderated debate, these egalitarian discussions were a venue to pool the collective wisdom of the group and to expand one’s horizon to include others’ views

While the traditional salon allows for similar debates, harnessing our human nature of relating to each other while sharing food and drinks takes it to another level. By breaking bread with someone we break barriers and tap into our shared humanity. Ideas float more easily with our egoistic guards down. Thoughts are more likely to be debated for what they are rather than defended as our identities.

In these rough times of ever-widening and deepening social schisms, we are in desperate need of such windows to see through the other’s pains and fears, to revisit our assumptions and premises, and try to reconcile the different accounts we have of the one reality out there. Communities are built by coliving and resolving destructive differences along the way. Lets’s grasp at any opportunity towards this end.

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